Teachers and raising the bar

I once had a teacher who gave her class a writing assignment. The requirements were all spelled out: there was a choice of topic, a writing portion, and an oral presentation. Just a typical day in an English class.

But then it wasn’t.

After introducing the assignment she said, “If you complete all these requirements, exactly, you will get a C.”

Predictably, a student replies, “So what does it take to get an A?”

“Do more than required.”

“Like what?”

“You decide.”

The students were confused. Do everything and get a C? This couldn’t be right.

But it was right. She had thrown down the gauntlet. You could see the panic on each prospective Valedictorian’s face. It was a sight to behold.

But that was nothing compared to the presentations. One student burst out into song at random points during her presentation. Another student gave his presentation while standing on his head. Who knew these students could be so creative? All from a boring English class, from a teacher who dared to raise the bar.

We all have a lot of creative capacity that goes untapped in our day-to-day lives. What if we decided that “just fulfilling the requirements” wasn’t enough? How would we go above and beyond?